Struggle for justice is far from over, speakers say
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 January 20, 2014 3:46PM
The Ecumenical choir practices before their performance at the Martin Luther King Jr service at West Side High School on January 20, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\for Sun-Times media
Updated: January 22, 2014 2:08PM
GARY — The city’s King Day ecumenical service at the West Side Leadership Academy filled the auditorium with a mix of scripture, song and speeches. State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said Monday shouldn’t be a holiday.
“We don’t have time to stop in the battle. It’s not a holiday, it’s an observance,” Smith said. The day, he added, also should serve as a warning that the General Assembly he serves in Indianapolis is not a progressive one.
“We’re losing ground,” he said.
The program, led by the Rev. Dwight Gardner of Trinity Baptist, included ministers from across the city, student leaders, school and ecumenical choirs. It marked the city’s 44th ecumenical service for King.
Bishop Norman Hairston Jr., of Zion Progressive Cathedral International, delivered stirring closing remarks.
Gary Community School Corp. Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said she’d love to paint a “rosy picture” of the state of the school district. But anything but the truth would be a disservice, she said, in detailing the spiraling academic performance of Gary students.
“If our city is to thrive, we must change... more importantly in how we see the truth,” Pruitt told the crowd.
Pruitt cited the district’s graduation rate of 59 percent and its low test score numbers. “It’s well-documented that poverty has a negative effect on education outcomes,” she said referring to the 56 percent of Gary students living in poverty.
To close the achievement gap and the digital divide, Pruitt said the district replaced 3,700 computers that dated back to a 2003 database and is supplying an additional 1,500 computers for home use in February through a lottery.
U.S. Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said Rev. King would be concerned about the lack of dignity afforded to workers today.
“You made less for one hour’s work last year than you did in 1977,” he said. “That’s certainly not the America Dr. King dreamed of.”